Killing Your Darlings

Apparently we writers need to be homicidal maniacs. A piece of advice I’ve heard often times is to “kill your darlings” when revising. No, we’re not to  ask our publishers to lace the pages with cyanide. We must simply ax with a machete the carefully crafted words we’ve given birth to. If we don’t, our editors’ red pens will make the page bleed anyway.

At the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith advised us hopefuls  to writewritewrite our first draft. And then obliterate it. Watch as it goes poof into our computer’s trash bin.  I’m Catholic to core, including in my writing, so obviously I cannot do that.  I respect life, even of words!

And yet I now find myself tormented by a project that fears its facing the guillotine. See, Publishers Weekly announced the young adult novel Halo as one of the hot ARCs to grab at Book Expo America. I am sitting with a young adult novel-length project named Halos about a very similar subject matter, just with reversed genders. If I want my darling book to ever see the light of day, I know I must re-conceive the plot line and eliminate the achingly lovely lines.

But do I dare end their lives? Do I want to be known as Britt Leigh, mass murderer?  No. I think instead I’ll just send them to the Witness Protection Program of my external hard drive.


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